Volunteer in Peru and have a lasting impact on Amazon conservation efforts, in the Manu National park – one of the most diverse environments on earth.
About the Project
As a volunteer on this project you will get the opportunity to live and work alongside conservation researchers and community development staff to understand what they do on a daily basis by contributing to their conservation efforts first hand.
Upon arrival at the project, which is situated on the fringe of Manú National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and only a short journey from the Inca capital of Cusco you will learn what it takes to be part of a dedicated conservation team through an initial training process. This experience will help to educate you and give you a better understanding of conservation science and community development in the Amazon rainforest.
The Amazon is the largest and most species-rich rainforest in the world, covering a staggering 5.5 million km2 and due to its varied topography; the Manú Biosphere Reserve has one of highest levels of biodiversity of any national park. It is home to over 1000 species of birds, as well as larger wildlife including jaguar, puma, giant otter, giant anteater, giant armadillo and two and three-toed sloth. There are also 14 species of monkey, including marmoset, capuchin, tamarin, squirrel monkey, spider monkey and woolly monkey species.
Volunteering in South America you are sure to have an unforgettable experience and will enjoy playing an integral part in conservation research and sustainable community initiatives. Doing so involves tasks such as data-collection, animal-tracking and survey-recording. By taking part in this project you will spend time working with fascinating wildlife and alongside local people, striving to create a truly sustainable Amazon environment.
This project is at the forefront of conservation and research in one of the most ecologically important ecosystems in the world. The work undertaken here consists mainly of garnering data and honing techniques, which are vitally important to the future of not just Manu National Park but also the entire Amazon rainforest ecosystem. The project works towards:
Conservation Research: The project explores and supports the value of the Amazon rainforest through scientific research of its biodiversity and complex ecosystems. By studying endangered species and discovering new ones, the project is able to inform government decision making and help protect the rainforest from irreversible destruction.
Community Initiatives: Manu currently supports four native ethnic groups: the Machiguenga, the Mascho-Piro, the Yaminahua and the Amahuaca. These peoples are considered part of Manu's ecosystem and are left to use the area as they please. Manu provide local communities with the finance and training needed to develop sustainable enterprises as well as education. This empowers people to create a positive future and diverts labour and resources away from damaging practices (such as logging and mining).
Prior To Arrival
If you are from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia or most of the EU you do not require a visa to come to Peru as a tourist as a stay of around 6 months is granted on arrival for tourism purposes.
You will need to arrive into Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco on the start date of your project between 7am - 5pm where you will be picked up by a project representative and transferred to your hostel in Cusco. From here you will be transferred to every stage of the project.
Day 1-2 - The Adventure Begins:
Arrive at Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport, Cusco and transfer to temporary accommodation at a hostel in Cusco. You will spend the day acclimatising to the altitude and can explore the city. In the early evening there is a briefing where you will meet your fellow volunteers and learn more about the project itself. The next day you will get a brief registration in the morning and then you will be able to explore Cusco and experience Andean culture. This day is also a great opportunity to ensure you have everything you need for the project and if not pick it up in Cusco. In the evening you will be back at the hotel for a good night's sleep before travelling into the jungle the following morning.
Day 3 - Transfer to the Cloud Forest Lodge:
Today you will begin your trip to the Manu Biosphere over the Andes, through the cloud forest and into lowland Amazon. Upon arrival into the cloud forest you will have the opportunity to learn about the local eco systems and hopefully meet the national bird of Peru, the Cock of the Rock. You will stay in lodge accommodation for the night.
Day 4 - Transfer to Manu National Park:
This is your final transfer to the project site which is a 3 hour journey through the foothills of the Andes and includes a visit to a cocoa plantation on the way. The final part of this journey is a 45 minute boat ride on the meandering Amazonas river. Upon arrival you will settle into your accommodation before heading out into the jungle for your first taste of Amazonian living.
Day 5-9 - Training Period:
On these days you will learn about the aims of the project and the conservation tasks that take place, as well as learn how to live in the amazon jungle safely. Education will also centre on indigenous species and how to recognise them. Training will be mainly field-based, but will also involve regular presentations.
Day 10-31 - Project Days:
Activities during these days will vary according to which of the smaller projects volunteers are assigned to day by day. There are usually morning and afternoon work sessions, interspersed with meals and breaks with Sunday being a rest day. Activities during these days include:
Amphibians and reptile monitoring at night:
Amphibians are excellent indicator species as they are extremely vulnerable to changes in their environment. Studying the way they use regenerating forest is therefore vital for assessing its conservation value. As a volunteer you will carry out transect surveys, walking slowly along a 100m trail through the forest looking for amphibians and reptiles.
The field site location is one of the best places for bird watching in the world. As bird species composition and diversity can signify many different things about the forest, such as forest type, structure, age, health, and level and type of human impact you will conduct early morning transects along the reserve to listen and look for birds. This is important as not only is the ecology of many of these tropical foothill species poorly known, but the true value of regenerating forest for birds is understudied.
Mammal Monitoring Project:
Here the aim is to understand the importance of regenerating rainforest as habitat for different mammal species. So far more than 40 large mammal species have been recorded at the field location through survey methods such as transects, camera traps and tracking. Camera traps have suggested that 13 individual jaguars have been recorded at the field site since 2010.
Forest Regeneration Project:
The history of the MLC reserve makes it a natural research lab for investigating the effects of different land uses on regenerating forest. There are three parts to our forest regeneration project: leaf litter collection where fallen organic matter is sorted, dried and weighed, tree phenology and canopy photos. This is part of an ongoing project in partnership with Oxford University. Monitoring changes in the biomass levels within the MLC will allow us to gather information about the regeneration rate of the forest and determine whether the reserves of carbon in the forest are changing.
The project works specifically with local mothers to combat malnutrition, by providing resources and knowledge to build biogardens that produce nutritious, fresh food for families, and extra income through surplus crops. So far volunteers and local mothers have created over 50 family biogardens, and have helped build six institutional biogardens.
Help to create, plant, monitor and map reforestation plots. Volunteers have helped turn 17 hectares of degraded land into agroforestry plots which has enabled the planting of 10,000 plantains and 3,000 trees.
Day 32-33 - Final Days:
Transfer back to Cusco, spend the night in a city hostel and the next day transfer back to the airport for your return flights.
On Sundays you will be free to relax and enjoy some fun activities with the other volunteers! The project is located in a very remote area so it is not possible to travel away from the project site, but on Sunday's you will be able to go on walks, play football, read a book, or simply relax in the hammocks!